White House and Italian American Leaders Achieve Breakthrough Over Columbus Day's Meaning and History


President Joe Biden praises the Italian American community in Columbus Day Proclamation.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Basil M. Russo, the national leader of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, recently sat down with senior White House staff to offer guidance on the significant and often overlooked history that binds the Italian American community to Columbus Day.


Columbus Day parades are stepping off in major cities across the country, from New York City, Boston and Pittsburgh to Cleveland, Chicago and beyond. Happy Columbus Day to all, as we celebrate 500 years of immigration to the U.S. (Credit: Z. Tarlacz)

The final product was this year’s Columbus Day Proclamation, a historically accurate document that traces the struggles and rise of the Italian American culture, and reflects the winding path to assimilation that many of America’s immigrants know all too well.

“This breakthrough comes at a critical time as America’s ‘culture wars’ grind on, but as the White House demonstrated, there’s a great deal that can be achieved through meaningful dialogue,” said Russo. “My fellow Italian American leaders were instrumental in this effort, and it’s time to continue the conversation on local and national levels with other groups and cultures who wish to sit down and listen to one another.”

President Joe Biden’s inclusive piece, released Friday night, was a welcome departure from past proclamations that drew criticism from the Italian American community for conflating the Columbus Day holiday with prevailing social issues.

“Dear Mr. Russo, thank you again for all of your guidance on this year’s Columbus Day proclamation. We really appreciate it, and look forward to working with you,” said Will McIntee, Senior Advisor, Office of Public Engagement, The White House.

We offer our thanks to President Biden and Mr. McIntee and look forward to working closely with the White House to secure separate holidays for Italian Americans and Indigenous Peoples.

Russo, along with dozens of delegates from the Conference of Presidents, has spent the past year traveling to Rome’s parliament and the Vatican to establish diplomatic and cultural ties; they have also mobilized hundreds of Italian American organizations to pursue initiatives that range from public policy and advocacy to education, language and developing cultural institutions. 

ABOUT THE CONFERENCE OF PRESIDENTS OF MAJOR ITALIAN AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS

Formed in 1975 and based in NYC, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is comprised of 58 of the most influential, cultural, educational, fraternal and anti-defamation groups in the nation. The Conference of Presidents is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution.

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SOURCE The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations

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